Obama and Elie Weisel 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama declared Monday that the legacy of the
Holocaust challenges America to do everything it can to keep Iran from acquiring
a nuclear bomb.
“‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental
right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security – and that
includes the State of Israel,” said Obama, speaking at the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum in honor of the annual commemoration of the Shoah. “I
will always be there for Israel.”
He continued, “When faced with a regime
that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy
Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from
getting a nuclear weapon.”
Obama also said that, “‘Never again’ is a
challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms – including anti-Semitism, which
has no place in a civilized world.”
Before taking the podium Monday,
Obama toured the museum with Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie
Wiesel, who introduced the president, also connected the
Holocaust to Iran and spoke forcefully of the need for the world to take
“How is it that the number one Holocaust denier Ahmadinejad is
still the president? He who threatens to use nuclear weapons – to use nuclear
weapons – to destroy the Jewish state.
Have we not learned?” Wiesel asked
the audience of human rights activists, Jewish community leaders and Holocaust
“We must, must know that when evil has power, it is almost too
Wiesel pointed to the importance of “preventative measures,” and
stressed, “We must use those measures to prevent another
During his speech Monday, Obama did roll out some new steps
to limit Iran and Syria’s ability to act against their own people.
among them is a new executive order authorizing new sanctions against the Syrian
and Iranian governments and those that help them, and using technology to
monitor and target citizens for violence.
“These technologies should be
in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” he said. “And it’s one more
step that we can take toward the day that we know will come – the end of the
Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people – and allow the Syrian people
to chart their own destiny.”
Obama also announced the strengthening of
the new Atrocities Prevention Board, bringing together senior officials from
across our government to focus on the issues, which convened at the White House
for the first time Monday. In addition, the intelligence community will prepare
its firstever national intelligence estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and
genocide, among other measures.
Despite these moves and the recent
declaration that preventing mass atrocities is a core national security
interest, Obama cautioned, “that does not mean that we intervene militarily
every time there’s an injustice in the world. We cannot and should
During his speech, Obama also reported that he would be
posthumously awarding the Presidential Medal of Honor, the country’s highest
civilian honor, to Jan Karski.
Karski, Obama noted, was a Catholic Pole
who witnessed efforts to exterminate the Jews and “told the truth, all the way
to president Roosevelt himself.”